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Glass Town: The Imaginary World of the Brontës

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A graphic novel about the Brontë siblings, and the strange and marvelous imaginary worlds they invented during their childhood
Glass Town is an original graphic novel by Isabel Greenberg that encompasses the eccentric childhoods of the four Brontë children—Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne. The story begins in 1825, with the deaths of Maria and Elizabeth, the eldest siblings. It is in response to this loss that the four remaining Brontë children set pen to paper and created the fictional world that became known as Glass Town. This world and its cast of characters would come to be the Brontës’ escape from the realities of their lives. Within Glass Town the siblings experienced love, friendship, war, triumph, and heartbreak. Through a combination of quotes from the stories originally penned by the Brontës, biographical information about them, and Greenberg's vivid comic book illustrations, readers will find themselves enraptured by this fascinating imaginary world.

220 pages, Hardcover

First published February 6, 2020

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Isabel Greenberg

36 books615 followers

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5 stars
819 (26%)
4 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 504 reviews
Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.3k followers
March 16, 2020
In the past couple years I took the opportunity to--after many decades—re-read Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and her sister Charlotte’s Jane Eyre, and have since taught each of them at least once in my classes. I was in part trying to correct a problem in my YA class teaching that a couple women called attention to: Why is it you celebrate/interrogate all these various genres in your classes but not romance? So I took on that challenge and it led me back to, among other things, the Brontes (and some contemporary YA romances I had been ignoring). (Ugh, guys!)

So I was curious about this book about the childhood of the Bronte family and their having invented a world, Glass Town, that they imaginatively inhabited in a variety of ways. Glass Town, by Isabel Greenberg, is a graphic novel based on that Brontë juvenilia that all four of the children created in childhood and well into adulthood. The book deals with their real lives on the Yorkshire Moors with some focus on their collective storytelling.

And some of it is sad, too, as the family lost several of its members to early deaths. So if early on the process seems to be an elaborate and extended version of any childhood imaginative play, what emerges later is a portrait of Charlotte in particular extending her play into her everyday life, making sense of her life and its losses through interaction with the characters she has/they have invented and grown up with. Which might describe a version of what any of us might do through our reading: Make sense of our lives through literature, through myth, through story.

I don’t usually do this but I am going to share something a Goodreads reviewer, LH Johnson, wrote to help me appreciate the depth and passion and sheer fierceness of this “play”:

“Pulling a rabbit out of a hat. All magic, magic things but infinitely different. The act of conjuring. The act of making. The act of faith. A thousand different things in this world are magic and they are intoxicating, teasing, all-enveloping. Writing was the Brontës magic, a way to slide from one world into another, and the moors were their magic, a way to stand on the edge of the sky, and each other were their magic, these small potatoes in their cellar, these sisters.”

Wow, yes. What do young people, what do adults do, what do the arts and reading do when they share it with each other and the world? Well, the Brontes used art and then specifically literature to draw on/make magic in the world, to help them and us appreciate the possibilities when seeing the world differently.

Also relevant to my reading of Isabel Greenberg’s book might be my watching the most recent film based on Little Women, with all its depictions of girls growing up and doing the arts and creative, imaginative invention together. That’s another example.

Another cool aspect of this fictional biography by (the feminist) Greenberg is that it reveals yet another dimension of her own interest in the power of myth-making for (maybe especially) women in the world. The Encyclopedia of Early Earth was her first graphic novel and I was cool to it, really, I wasn’t yet convinced. Sometimes it takes me awhile, but I could see in it her allegiance to classical and various world myths with respect to (especially) the women in her story. Her next book, The One Hundred Nights of Hero, a story set in Early Earth, convinced me of her commitment to the power of collaborative myth-making, and Glass Town is just another example of this kind of work in action.

One of the best graphic novels of the year. Do you need to have recently read one of the Bronte novels? No, it’s not directly about that. Anyone who has ever been a child will get this.
Profile Image for April (Aprilius Maximus).
1,092 reviews6,579 followers
October 13, 2020
"We have lived off dreams for far too long, Anne."

representation: Black characters.

[trigger warnings are listed at the bottom of this review and may contain spoilers]


Even though I'm a hardcore Brontë stan, this one just wasn't for me because I really didn't like the art style. I really enjoyed the actual story though!

trigger warnings: death of family members, colonisation, slavery, racism.
Profile Image for Théo M. (bookswiththeo).
260 reviews55 followers
May 9, 2020
I almost DNFed this one, which would definitely be a first for a graphic novel. But I just could not get into this story, I really couldn’t care less about the plot, but in theory it is really cute that it’s about their imagination as children. I just couldn’t get into it, not my cup of tea.

I enjoyed the art style, but I didn’t like the colour choices, I felt sometimes the palette was too dark.
Profile Image for Daisy May Johnson.
Author 2 books165 followers
December 20, 2020
I am increasingly conscious that I am moving closer to the world of the Brontës, falling in love with it, and not being remotely mad about this, not at all. I would have fought against this a few years ago, I think, reading them as something distant from what they are. Something dull, something 'bonnety', something related to distant schooldays and the memories of tearing a text from limb to limb and leaving little to nothing left there to love, to lose onself in. But I have learnt how to read since then, and by 'read', I mean to read for myself. This isn't about literacy nor the understanding of shapes and comprehension of words, it's about reading. Selfishly, wholly. Completely. Reading not for the reaction of others but for the reaction of myself. And to trust in that. It's something I took a while to figure out: my reading has validity. And also, that it doesn't matter what route I take to get to a text. It just matters that I take it.

My route to the Brontës began with Emily and Wuthering Heights, and the slow realisation that I could not ignore storytelling as fierce as this. And so I worked my way into their world, reading books about them and books by them and books like Glass Town by Isabel Greenberg, books that are something so magical and wild and weird and delicious that they spill out of simple classifications and into something else entirely. Technically this is a graphic novel, a blend of fact and fiction, a story of the Brontë juvenilia and the stories held within, and it is that. But it's something else entirely, and I think that something is magic.

Magic. We read it as one thing, but it's so often another. Opening your eyes. Picking up a pen. Pulling a rabbit out of a hat. All magic, magic things but infinitely different. The act of conjuring. The act of making. The act of faith. A thousand different things in this world are magic and they are intoxicating, teasing, all-enveloping. Writing was the Brontës magic, a way to slide from one world into another, and the moors were their magic, a way to stand on the edge of the sky, and each other were their magic, these small potatoes in their cellar, these sisters.

I think that's what happens here in Isabel Greenberg's book, magic. Worlds slide into worlds, lives fold into each other, stories map landscapes, oceans are formed, stars are made, stories are told. Greenberg's art borders on a spectral edge, capturing the tense edge of life on the edge of the moor, a life fighting against everything that happened, another world haunting the skies above Haworth, a castle in the sky built by words and stories and dreams.

The other great part of this book is Charlotte's story. There are moments here that are intensely saddening, handled with a great and subtle restraint, and it is remarkable. I loved it. A lesson in dreams, a lesson in heartbreak, a lesson in imagination. A lesson in heartbreak, a lesson in love, a lesson in life. This book really is a stunning achievement.
Profile Image for Lauren James.
Author 16 books1,438 followers
February 6, 2020
I love Isabel's graphic novels, and Glass Town was just as brilliant as I'd hoped. The perfect mix of fantasy and historical fiction, it flows seamlessly between imagination and memoir.
Profile Image for Chari.
185 reviews41 followers
February 12, 2020
Perfecto. My cup of tea. Qué bonito y qué delicia de historia. He amado cada página. Si eres Brontë fan, conocedor de sus vidas y de la importancia de la invención de sus mundos imaginarios de Juvenilia, espero que disfrutes tanto como yo con esta lectura mezcla de realidad y fantasía.
Profile Image for Jenny Lawson.
Author 9 books17.1k followers
September 28, 2020
A wonderful look into the secret, imaginary lives of these Brontës. Rather inspiring.
Profile Image for Emily.
873 reviews146 followers
August 29, 2020
I almost returned this to the library unread, because I was put off by the scribbly style of the artwork, and also found the handwritten text challenging to read. However, I forced myself to read the first few pages, and then got engrossed by the story and both of those things ceased to matter. I finished it more or less in one sitting.

I came to the book already knowing a lot about the Brontë family and the existence of their fantasy worlds, but not much more about the content of those worlds than the names of the countries. This book delves deeply into them, and I found myself wishing I knew a little more, so I could see where Isabel Greenberg employed her own imagination (which she acknowledges in a preface), although I do have my suspicions. Even though I'm still not much of a fan of the art, I do think the graphic novel format works well for this telling of the family's story, with the Haworth parsonage sections and the fantasy sections drawn in such contrasting colors.

The book starts out being about the original world, "Glass Town," created by all four Brontë siblings, but comes to focus on Charlotte. First Emily and Anne drop out of the shared fantasy, creating their own world from which Charlotte, and likewise the reader of this book, is excluded (a poignant truth, given that so little of Anne and Emily's work survived). Then Charlotte loses Branwell, her particular partner in creativity, when he sinks into his life of dissipation. Then she literally loses them all. What a sad life.
Profile Image for Rod Brown.
5,280 reviews174 followers
April 2, 2020
I highly recommend that this book be read with (but after) the recent graphic novel, Charlotte Brontë Before Jane Eyre, to get a fuller understanding of the childhood of the Brontës and the creation of the Glass Town shared universe.

This is a melancholy tale with suitably dark and rough art that uses loose adaptations of Glass Town stories to reflect rifts in the Brontë family and complex feelings amongst the siblings, especially those of Charlotte for her brother Branwell. It also probes a bit at the colonialism and imperialism of the British people as the conquered and enslaved natives of Angria attempt an uprising against their oppressors.

It's interesting to see how this all feeds into Jane Eyre, one of my all-time favorite novels.
Profile Image for Elizabeth A.
1,823 reviews107 followers
April 16, 2020
This semi-biographical graphic novel is about the Brontes siblings, their family dynamics, and the imaginary worlds they created - Glass Town was one such world.

This is the third book I've read by the author, and is the one I liked least. It was interesting to get some insight into the family, and some of the influences behind Jane Eyre, but there was something missing for me. Jane Eyre is the only Brontes book I've read (I really liked it), but I know nothing about the siblings - maybe if I did I would have enjoyed this more. While I didn't love the illustration style in this one, I appreciated the power of stories and family bonds explored. Maybe I'll read a family biography after I've read more of their novels.
Profile Image for Samantha.
98 reviews123 followers
May 14, 2020

If you've finished and loved Glass Town like I have and are looking to prolong your Brontë love, pair it with To Walk Invisible, which is a stunning film about the Brontë siblings. I thought a lot about this movie while savouring those gorgeous pages of Greenberg's graphic novel.
Profile Image for JennRa.
299 reviews
April 9, 2020
Si eres fan de las hermanas Brontë, esta obra es para ti. Si te apasiona crear historias, navegar por mundos imaginarios, esta obra es para ti. Si eres un apasionado de la lectura que quiere incursionar en nuevos formatos, esta obra es para ti.
En definitiva, aunque seas un marcianito que habla un dialecto desconocido para la raza humana, esta obra es para ti.

Solo puedo decir que mi corazón rebosa de dicha y tristeza a la vez.
Profile Image for Jessie Pietens.
255 reviews25 followers
March 9, 2020
It was SO good! This is my first (real, apart from Harry Potter) 5-star book of the year. I enjoyed it for every second and could barely put it down. De illustrations were STUNNING and the plot absolutely consumed me. This was a beautiful homage to the Brontë's and now I can't wait to read more by them and - most of all - to read more of Greenberg's work as well. The colours were mesmerising and fit the story perfectly. The story itself was so whimsical and beautifully thought out. This could have been 500 pages and I would have gobbled up every last crumb of it. This is one I'll definitely return to again and again.
Profile Image for Tia.
777 reviews257 followers
April 10, 2020
I requested this book from Edelweiss for review. My request was granted. I tried to view it on my kindle fire 8, but couldn’t read it. The words were too small. I knew I would want the book in my collection so I ordered it from Book Depository.

The book itself is sturdy and the pages are made from quality paper. This book is like a graphic novel. I don’t read many of them so, the format and drawings took some time to get used to. I did enjoy the book. It is one that can be reread and definitely shared. I have no doubt about the vastness of the Bronte’s imaginations. It was a fun escape into the World of Glass Town.

I was given an ARC of this book by Abrams Books via Edelweiss
Profile Image for Kaylee Gwyn (literarypengwyns).
818 reviews77 followers
April 1, 2020
5 Stars

Wonderful! This is a graphic novel depicting the imaginary world of Glass Town that the four Bronte siblings created in their childhood. We start with Charlotte, the sole surviving Bronte child, as she deals with her grief. Her character of Charles Wellesley comes to visit her and reintroduces her to Glass Town as a way to handle her grief. We are then transported through the creation of Glass Town, the dramas unfolding there and in the Bronte Family’s lives, and then to the destruction of Glass Town and the eventual deaths of Charlotte’s siblings. Isabel took liberties with the contents of Glass Town, but I enjoyed them and felt that they showed the parallels between these early characters within the Bronte sister’s imaginations and then the characters and storylines of their later published works.

If you are a fan of the Brontes, I highly recommend picking this up! It’s easy to fly though, the story is engrossing and the illustrations are divine. This is absolutely a book I will treasure and revisit and I’m so grateful to the US publisher, Abrams, for providing me a gifted copy so that I could have a little bit of escapism during this crazy COVID-19 reality we all live in.
Profile Image for Jenny Cooke (Bookish Shenanigans).
390 reviews118 followers
May 4, 2021
One of my favourite books of the year that I'm sure will stay with me. A witty and clever story of the Bronte siblings and their juvenalia writings of Gondol and Glass Town. An entertaining read that is exquisitely illustrated.
January 21, 2022
A small dog lying on a fluffy blanket with a hardcover book to her right.

📚 Hello Book Friends! Happy Friday! I am buddy reading GLASS TOWN: THE IMAGINARY WORLD OF THE BRONTËS by Isabel Greenberg with my friends Annie (a.k.a. @pawsandpagesbyannie) and Jaclyn (a.k.a. @thewatsonreview). This awesome graphic novel is about the four Brontë children and their wild imaginations. I enjoyed the flow of the story and the illustrations. It is also a perfect mix of fantasy and historical fiction. I haven’t read any of the Brontë sisters’ books yet, but this graphic novel piqued my curiosity. I am looking forward to our discussion of of this book.

#bookstadog #poodles #poodlestagram #poodlesofinstagram #furbabies #dogsofinstagram #bookstagram #dogsandbooks #bookishlife #bookishlove #bookstagrammer #books #booklover #bookish #bookaholic #reading #readersofinstagram #instaread #ilovebooks #bookishcanadians #canadianbookstagram #bookreviewer #bookcommunity #bibliophile #glasstown #isabelgreenberg #abramscomicarts #abramsbooks #bookreview
Profile Image for Varsha Ravi (between.bookends).
427 reviews109 followers
August 23, 2020

Isabel Greenberg’s stunning and imaginatively rendered graphic interpretation of the Bronte’s siblings fictional world of Glass Town is nothing short of brilliant. Having read both her other full length graphic novels, The Encyclopaedia of Early Earth and The One Hundred Nights of Hero, this newest work is my favourite. It begins with a melancholic note as an older Charlotte, the only one of the 4 left alive, ruminates the world she created with her siblings, Branwell, Emily and Anne. Greenberg beautifully moves the narrative seamlessly between reality and their imaginative world of Glass Town, taking a few creative liberties to breathe life into both. The two key characters of Glass Town, Zamorna and Charles are Charlotte’s own alter egos, the bad and good side of her conscience and that battle between the two sides of her mind, between writer and character, between reality and imagination is so wonderfully nuanced. Greenberg’s illustrative style is a little more choppy and rougher on the edges compared to her other two graphic works but no less beautiful. I would highly recommend this, even if you’re not into graphic novels, but you love the classics and the work of Bronte’s, particularly Charlotte and Jane Eyre. There are little nods to Jane Eyre, and you can see semblances of Rochester and Jane in some of Charlotte’s imagined characters of Glass Town. It’s one I’ll most certainly revisit time and again.
Profile Image for Vanya.
134 reviews136 followers
July 4, 2020
Fans of classics and Bronte sisters, take note: THIS BOOK IS FOR YOU!

Glass Town by Isabel Greenberg is a beautifully drawn graphic novel that brings to life the interior world of Bronte siblings’ creative minds. Charlotte, Emily, Anne, and Branwell (yes, they had a brother too) created an elaborate imaginary city called the Glasstown Confederacy. The idea came about when they were grieving the death of their two elder siblings - Maria and Elizabeth. This little game they had constructed—of building another world in vivid strokes and details—was supposed to keep them occupied and that it did, to the extent that Charlotte would find herself feeling detached with the reality, longing for the imaginary world of #GlassTown instead when she was teaching in a boarding school.

There’s much heart in this book that shows us how creativity and art can be our support systems in times of extreme emotional turmoil. It also teaches us that the magnetic pull of creative pursuits can very well wreak havoc if one doesn’t learn to strike a balance. The lure of it is both irresistible and dangerous.

Overall, I found this to be a fascinating graphic novel that blends memoir and fiction, evoking Bronte juvenilia with absolutely stunning illustrations.
Profile Image for Marcella.
893 reviews61 followers
December 30, 2022
I didn't fully love this, but I did admire the art style which reflects this intriguing and slightly haunting tale of how stories can comfort and fuel further imagination, but can also cause you to get a bit lost.
Profile Image for Dianna.
536 reviews90 followers
February 28, 2020
Bramwell, Anne and Emily all die within 9 months of each other, leaving Charlotte alone and lost. It’s 1849 and she’s out from behind her pseudonym. She’s famous and she’s grieving.

She turns back to Angria, the world she and her siblings created and wrote together. While Anne and Emily would later split, and move their creative efforts to Gibraltar, and while Bramwell’s use of their fictional kingdom could be haphazard and misaligned with Charlotte’s vision, Angria was special.

I’ve read a couple of other fictional works about the Brontes and their juvenalia and this is my favourite. Of course Charlotte would be tempted by Angria, as she remembers siblings. Of course a return to that world would be bittersweet and dangerous. The art is beautiful, the sketchy style, the heavy lines make the story feel ... inky. As though it’s what writing looks like in the writer’s head.

So far, there’s been a focus on the author’s experience of their fictional world and characters as real. As though Angria’s role cannot be unlinked from its creators, and look that’s definitely there: the Brontes wrote themselves into Angria from the beginning, and rewrote its history and characters as they grew up and their interests changed. I’m fairly sure that Charlotte said something, in a letter or to Ellen Nussey, about how she has to let go of Angria before she could write Jane Eyre, that she couldn’t, perhaps, separate herself enough to turn it into the book she wanted to write.

This approach to Angria works well, but it still leaves me yearning for Angria to be a fully realised world beyond the Brontes, for it to be a place like Middle Earth or Narnia or Neverland. It has a map! It has politics and secret societies and wars. But I’m also aware that this is wishful thinking - it’s not, ultimately, a substantial enough place. It’s most interesting because it’s part of Bronte lore.

Profile Image for Amanda .
696 reviews13 followers
November 26, 2020
I went into this book thinking that it was going to be an account of the Bronte siblings and their juvenalia work. I didn't realize that it would be a weird mashup of Charlotte having conversations with one of her character creations. I don't think the book blurb adequately represented what this book was. I didn't get to know much of anything about the Bronte family and after reading this book I was disappointed.

The cover was lovely but the illustrations weren't my cup of tea. The illustrations of scenery were lovely and descriptive but the illustrations of characters were a weird mashup of Picasso and a second grader artist. They had weird Gumby arms and flat faces.
Profile Image for Susan Liston.
1,310 reviews36 followers
July 25, 2020
Well after seeing this raved about by so many dear little booktubers I watch, I thought I'd give it a go. I've only read a couple of graphic novels but I'm open to them. Unfortunately this seemed to be a bit of much ado about nothing much. The color palate is dreary, the artwork amateurish (although I assume this is style rather than inability, based as it is on the Bronte children's juvenalia). I never engaged with it much at all.
November 2, 2020
“But some thing cannot be made alive again, and nor should they be.”

This was so good, but I don’t know why I was crying by the end. To see these characters and understand the process of creation from the writer’s lens; it just made me all emotional at the end 😭

Profile Image for Emma.
106 reviews3 followers
March 7, 2020
I never read graphic novels, they aren't really my thing. However, I could not resist this one. The story of Charlotte dealing with the death of her siblings by retreating to their beloved childhood Glasstown was exquisitely told by Greenberg. I loved this. That is all. Even if you are not a graphic novel reader in general, if you find the Brontës interesting (and who doesn't?) then you should get this. I think it would also be the perfect gift for a literary little one.
Profile Image for Hannah Showalter.
165 reviews32 followers
December 12, 2022
This book was so interesting and unlike anything I’ve read. I’m a Brontë sisters girlie through and through, so naturally I loved this. The art was gorgeous as well!!
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